The installation of our wood stove brought about a new need, firewood. The first round of wood we struggled to get to our house in the back of our jeep. It took about three trips to get the wood seen in the picture here to our house. That clearly was not very efficient, though the price (free) was right. Now that we had the wood we had to split it. After a few tries with our ax we realized that another tool was needed. Continue reading
Category Archives: Household
Last summer we were researching alternate home heating solutions, well we settled on an option! We decided to go with a Jotul Wood Burning Cast-Iron Stove. We were able to pick up a floor model from a company that recently changed locations for a steep discount. We hooked it up through our existing fireplace and obtained a fire/heat resistant floor mat to place in front of the stove to keep our floor from melting.
Using firewood that we can obtain for free through websites like craigslist we have been able to use the stove to reduce our home heating costs. Unfortunately modern homes are not usually designed to be heated using stoves so the air movement is less than ideal, especially in a town-house. The result is that we still use our HVAC fan to circulate air, which does use electricity, though still much better than having to pay for heating gas. Continue reading
I’ve spent some time absorbing all of the information in The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour.
This book is an amazing resource that covers so many aspects of homesteading! Since the book covers a wide range of topics, it doesn’t go into too much depth on any one. I could say it’s pretty comprehensive on gardening, but light on issues of raising and butchering meat. This book is a great overall resource, and should be supplemented with more in-depth books regarding specific areas of interest.
Yesterday I read the book Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power by Mark Schapiro.
This book was clearly written with a liberal bias. The author praises the European way of addressing the chemicals present in everyday products, and is very anti-Bush administration. I could be okay with that if the author did a respectable job of telling both sides of the story, but he did not. Schapiro would completely explain the EU methodology, and provide a limited response from the American viewpoint. He did not explain the rationale for the US system of dealing with chemicals in products, except to allege that the US policy is dictated by the companies making the products.
To summarize the book, I would start by saying that the EU now represents a larger population than the government of the United States. When it issues directives limiting what can be sold in the EU, corporations must take note as there is a large consumer base in the EU. The EU has adopted a philosophy predicated on the precautionary principle; if a chemical is known to be harmful at any dosage, the EU works to limit people’s exposure to it. The EU will ban it in products, etc. The US, on the other hand, will ask at what dosage the chemical is harmful, and see if the chemical is present at that dosage during normal use of everyday products before considering any regulatory action.
Another difference noted between the EU system and the US system is that in the EU individual citizens do not have nearly as much legal right to sue over injury from a product. The US, on the other hand, has an active tort system. This allows anyone to sue for wrongdoing by a company that made harmful product. Therefore the US does not require the government to ban products in order for there to be an incentive for companies to make sure their products are not harmful.
The book does not fully address the dilemma that it doesn’t matter what regulations are in place if the regulations aren’t followed. The book barely notes that so many products are made in China, and that in China it is not uncommon for corners to be cut and for products to be made with illegal components. Schapiro makes note of a few shipments confiscated by the EU because they tested positive for banned chemicals. This challenge is not completely investigated by Schapiro.
As much as I disagree with the politics of this book, I do agree that it is important to look at the chemicals in everyday products and investigate the effect of those chemicals. I believe in the power of the consumer, and believe that is the consumer’s job to be educated, consume products that he or she wants to, and the market will adapt to meet that demand.
What You Can Do If You Want to Limit Your Exposure to Chemicals
With just a bit of research I found a variety of resources that people can use to limit their exposure to chemicals if they so desire. Since a lot of chemicals are found in plastics, there’s this book Plastic-Free by Beth Terry which gives advice on how to limit plastic consumption:
There’s also this book by Deanna Duke. Duke details her efforts to limit chemical exposure in her home after her family experiences health problems. I haven’t read this book, but I have read Duke’s blog, and I like the way she writes. I would note that again there is a very liberal bias.
There are also a variety of websites that enable people to look up chemicals in products. HealthyChild.org offers pocket guides, articles, and other helpful resources to be a smart consumer. SkinDeep offers a database search of over 75,000 products that lets you know what’s in each product and gives it a safety rating. I looked up one of the makeup products I use, and found out it’s not that bad!
Here‘s a New York Times article on the issue of chemicals with babies and young children that is a good read on the issue. This article is a quick summary of some of the most debated chemicals in children’s toys.
This article from Mothering.com details how to avoid toxins in packaging for food. This article from WebMDdetails how people are being exposed to BPA through its presence on paper, though notes that experts say exposure is at tolerable levels. The issue would become how much BPA are people being exposed to overall when the exposure from paper is combined with other exposure.
Our homesteading work has also allowed us to limit our exposure to chemicals in products. Look forward to a future post on this!
We are about to get new windows! We had a few replaced last year, and this year most of the rest. Here’s a picture of one of the windows we’re replacing:
So one of the benefits of being self-sufficient and doing things yourself is not being restricted by what’s available on the market. Last summer we hung up curtains in our living room. The curtains that matched our style and color scheme were pretty flimsy, though.
They weren’t lined, which we wanted. We bought them anyway, knowing that I could line them later. So ever since last summer, it’s been on my list to line the curtains. I have the capability to do that since I have a sewing machine, and know how to use it.
First, what to line them with? I know I wanted to line them with white fabric so it would reflect back the heat outside. George had the smart idea that it might be cheaper to buy sheets from a thrift store rather than buy fabric. So over the year we bought some sheets.
As I prepared to start this project, I ironed the curtains and the sheets.
It’s recommended before sewing any fabric that you iron it so it’s as straight as possible.
Initially, I had a problem with the sewing machine. The thread was getting all tangled by the bobbin. A quick internet search first suggested to make sure the machine was threaded correctly. It was, so I researched more to find other suggestions. The next was to clean the machine. So with George’s help, I took apart the bottom part of the machine and cleaned it thoroughly. That worked! The machine worked flawlessly after that.
Sewing the liner on the curtains took time, but it was easy once the sewing machine worked.
The curtains are much heavier with the liner, which makes them hang better. They are also much better at keeping out light and heat, which was the goal!
We have some wonderful homestead dogs. These poor dogs have had some struggles with homestead ticks, though. Our region is a hotbed of tick activity, unfortunately. I spoke to the vet about the problem, and she recommended a product that’s a new import the US market from Europe. It’s a Scalibor Tick & Flea Collar. I bought two of them from VetRxDirect, which is where that link takes you, for $62 total. That website had the lowest price for the collars out of all the sites the vet recommended, plus I was able to find a coupon code through a quick internet search.
What I love about the collar is that I put it on, and just leave it for 6 months! That’s a lot easier than putting drops on the dogs every month. Plus it’s a steal: $31/collar for 6 months, which is about $5/month for flea & tick protection. Doesn’t get much cheaper than that, especially for such top notch protection!
Speaking of efficacy, the collars have been on the dogs for a few weeks now, and we have noticed a significant decrease in the number of ticks on the dogs. Now we still find the occasional tick, but according to the product information, it should already be affected by the medication and on its way to its demise. I am pretty happy with the product so far.
Since it’s summertime, I’m off! It’s a great part of being a teacher. I enjoy doing some morning chores around the homestead a few days a week.
I usually begin with filling a bucket from the rainbarrel, and using that water to water the plants around the yard. I will also take a bucket of water up to the deck and use it to water the plants there.
If the washing machine is empty, then I fill 5 gallon buckets with water from the rain barrel, and pour them into the washing machine. I only fill the buckets with about 4-4.5 gallons of water so that the buckets don’t splash when I carry them inside. I usually make about 5 trips with the buckets. I’m saving water and working my muscles at the same time, so it’s a win-win.
I’ll weed around the yard, or plant if needed. Today the pole beans that I planted last week needed trellises. So I put the ones in pots by the deck supports so they could grow up those.
The others are planted by the fence, but they weren’t quite close enough to start growing up it yet. I had some spare wood from breaking down an old trellis, so I put some of those wood pieces next to the plants and leaned the wood against the fence, that way the plants will grow up onto the fence.
Today I also worked on our raised beds, which I wrote about here.
Spending the morning in the garden is such a luxury! I’m thankful we have a nice yard to be in, and that I’m physically capable of doing the work.
When we moved into our homestead we found many of the appliances and household utilities to be in need of repair and/or replacement. The fans in our three bathrooms were all original, noisy, and did not seem to move much air. We decided last summer while we were re-painting all the rooms to replace the fans. Neither Martha or I had ever replaced a bathroom fan before but it seemed easy enough. But of course as with all household projects there are always unforeseen problems and challenges. I’m writing this post to share some of the experiences and nuances of replacing bathroom fans so that if you take on the task you might be better prepared, although I’m sure there will always be more challenges, unique to every situation.
The first thing you need to do is shut off power to the fan. Don’t just turn the switch controlling the fan off, go to the breaker box and kill power to the fan completely. Once power is off you can being to remove the old fan. Hopefully you have an attic above your fan that allows you to work from above. Working from above provides a much better vantage for prying the nails out of the beam on which the fan is mounted. I used a little mini-crowbar, making sure to lift up the fan enclosure above the drywall for hte ceiling. However, if you have to work from below, as we did with our first floor bathroom, I’d recommend getting a hack-saw blade. Use the blade to go up along the side of the fan that is mounted to the beam and cut the nails. Once the nails are cut (usually just two) it should slide right out. Continue reading
After receiving this wick material
and these wick tabs
I was anxious to start making candles!
Here at Independence Homestead we try to reuse as many materials as possible, so I had the idea that we could make candles in containers using repurposed glass food jars. We have quite the collection of baby food jars, salsa jars, pasta sauce jars, and more.
When melting wax for the candles, I read that it was important not to overheat the wax, so a double boiler was recommended. I realized since low heat was best, we should use our solar oven!
Our candles will be so environmentally friendly! The only new items in them will be the wick and tab, plus solar energy will be used to make them. Plus the beeswax is harvested from our own backyard!